NHS70 is an opportunity to tell the story of the service and justify the funding it has received for the future

The NHS is one of the most-loved institutions in the UK, if not the number one. Polling continues to show there is overwhelming support for the NHS' founding principles - it is the one thing that unites Britons across political, demographic and regional divides.

The power of story-telling at this key moment will enhance the NHS’ case for extra funding, argues Daniel Reynolds
The power of story-telling at this key moment will enhance the NHS’ case for extra funding, argues Daniel Reynolds

But we know the NHS faces significant challenges and, according to Ipsos MORI, it has risen to the top of the public’s concerns, outstripping fears over immigration.

And as the British Social Attitudes survey recently showed, public dissatisfaction with the NHS has almost doubled in recent years.

This is why the NHS turning 70 is both a time for celebration but also an opportunity to reflect on the future.

Communications leaders have grasped the opportunity presented by the 70th anniversary to tell a compelling story of how the NHS has continually evolved over the past eight decades and what it needs to do to survive and thrive for another 70 years.

As guardians of what is one of the UK’s most recognisable brands, communicators have told the story of a much-loved service that routinely goes above and beyond and provides a vital safety net for the public, but needs to evolve to meet the future demands of an ageing society.

Across all major broadcast outlets, newspapers and websites, there has been a clamour to tell this story to the public, and, backed with the depth of 'human interest' stories that make other public sector communicators envious, NHS communicators have delivered.

But away from the celebratory tone there has been a hard edge to the anniversary and the opportunity it has presented.

It has been a key staging post in a long-running battle to lift the NHS out of the longest and deepest financial squeeze in its history.

The best 70th present of all for the NHS was the government’s recent announcement of a long-term funding settlement of an extra £20bn.

Although it fell short of what independent experts such as the Institute for Fiscal Studies said was needed, it will stop the deterioration in waiting times and improve performance in key areas such as cancer and mental health.

There may not be a causal link, but the power of storytelling deployed by NHS communicators at this key moment undoubtedly will have enhanced the NHS’ case for extra funding and put it on a more sustainable path.

Daniel Reynolds is the director of communications at NHS Providers

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